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London 2012: Tickets, Travel and Hotel—Planning Your Olympics Splurge

Avi Wolfman-ArentCorrespondent IIMay 10, 2012

London 2012: Tickets, Travel and Hotel—Planning Your Olympics Splurge

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    Update (5/23):

    According to The Telegraph, the final round of  Olympic tickets went on sale Wednesday morning. Many of the marquee disciplines are already sold out, but organizers told The Telegraph  that there remains "good availability" for sports such as archery, badminton, basketball, beach volleyball, diving, handball and hockey.

    So if you want to hit London this summer, you best act fast. Otherwise, you may have to brave the extortionist waters of online brokerage.

     

    -----End of Update--------

     

    On Friday, London Olympic organizers will release an additional one million event tickets to the sport-hungry masses (via the AP).

    But before you take an impetuous stab at scoring some seats, you should know that this is going to cost you.

    Oh man, is it going to cost you.

    Putting on my hopelessly outdated travel agent hat—it's a Scottish tam—I've crunched the numbers on this summer's most expensive vacation.

    Faster, higher, stronger—costlier.

Travel

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    Let's set our departure point for New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.

    And let's imagine we want to arrive in London in time for the opening ceremony on July 27 and leave on August 13, the morning after the closing ceremony.

    According to the most recent rates available on Travelocity.com, that trip should cost us...

    Total Cost: $1,233

     

    Now, we could save some coin by flying non-direct, but I'm not sure it's worth the trouble.

    By accepting a 14-hour return trip that connects through Paris, you'll save $150. You'll also spend an additional seven hours in the mangled innards of international plane travel.

    Choose wisely.

    I've also looked into a couple of classic traveler shortcuts,—fly to Paris, and then take the Chunnel, hop through Iceland—but none of them seem any cheaper.

    For once, it seems the airlines aren't ripping us off.

     

    Alternative No. 1: Ship yourself via FedEx

    Big dilemma: Do you pack food, or do you purposefully starve yourself? The food will keep you alive, but consider the consequences if you eat too much.

    Plan carefully.

     

    Alternative No. 2: Swim

    According to my hasty research, this has never been done in the history of humanity. You could be the first!

    Downside: It's wet, and there are various sea creatures about. Plus, it takes forever to get that beach smell out of clothing.

Lodging

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    So, you've touched down in London, and you need somewhere to stay.

    According to our friends at Travelocity, the cheapest 17-night stay in a London hotel will cost you...

    Total Cost: $4,811 ($283 a night)

     

    Alternative No. 1: Hostel

    Cost: $935

    Europe is all about hostels.

    Big hostels. Little hostels. Hostile hostels.

    A little digging on hostels.com brings us to the cheapest available hostel in London, a place called "Number 8 Hostel." At "Number 8 Hostel," you can stay in a "Deluxe" 26-bed mixed dorm for $55 a night.

    And by "Deluxe," they probably mean, "like an Army barracks without the meticulous cleanliness or sense of purpose."

     

    Alternative No. 2: Dorm room

    Cost: $680

    European universities regularly house travelers over the summer. For $40 a night, you can stay at Ingleby House on the campus of St. George's University in South London. Amenities include common room, hall bathroom and something called an electric hob—I'm intrigued.

Tickets (Part 1): The High Life

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    Below are the listed ticket prices for some of London's marquee events, complete with reasons why you should and shouldn't spend your life's fortune on a seat.

     

    Track and Field

    100-meter men's final (among others): $80-$1,166

    Pro: The most exciting 10 seconds in sport.

    Con: Lasts all of 10 seconds.

     

    Beach Volleyball

    Women's medal matches: $152-$724

    Pro: Sand will remind you that, assuming temps are in the mid-60s and there's a total absence of sun, it is in fact summer.

    Con: Perhaps the most voyeuristic sport on the planet.

     

    Basketball

    Men's final: $152-$724

    Pro: The U.S. will steamroll its opposition.

    Con: The U.S. will steamroll its opposition.

     

    Diving

    Men's 10-meter platform final: $80-$724

    Pro: Power, grace, risk-taking, suspense.

    Con: Speedos.

     

    Gymnastics

    Women's All-Around final: $80-$724

    Pro: A young woman will live her dream.

    Con: Multiple young women will have their dreams crushed.

     

    Track Cycling

    Team pursuit: $80-$522 

    Pro: Funny-shaped helmets.

    Con: Oppressively repetitive.

     

    Ceremonies

    Opening ceremony: $32-$3,237

    Pro: Supposedly historic.

    Con: Long spells of interpretative dance, interrupted by incessant flag-carrying. I came here to see athletes run, not walk.

    Closing ceremony: $32-$2,413

    Pro: It's always good to have closure.

    Con: Seventy-five percent chance "Closing Time" by Semisonic gets stuck in your head.

Tickets (Part 2): Cheap Seats

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    If you're just interested in a little taste of the Olympic spirit, almost every discipline has some seats available for the generic basement price of $32.

    Even major draws like track and swimming will run you just $32—provided you're willing to watch preliminary races from the nosebleed section.

    But if want the finals drama without the big-ticket prices, perhaps you're fit for the following events.

     

    Archery

    Individual quarterfinals, semifinals and finals: $48-$152

    Pro: If it was good enough for Robin Hood, it's good enough for you.

    Con: Ever-present fear that competitors might decide to hunt spectators for sport.

     

    Canoe Sprint

    Four finals on Aug. 11: $56-$152

    Pro: You can tell that story about how you spent an entire summer carving your own canoe, relaying the sense of accomplishment and wholeness you felt upon completion.

    Con: No one likes your stories.

     

    BMX Cycling

    Men's and women's semifinals and finals: $32-$201

    Pro: Totally rad.

    Con: Sneaking suspicion that you're in a Mountain Dew: Code Red commercial.

     

    Road Race Cycling

    Men's road race: $32-$96

    Pro: Tests the very limits of men's tolerance for chafing.

    Con: Not as interesting as Road Rage cycling.

     

    Sailing

    Women's 470 medal race: $88 general admission

    Pro: Eco-friendly.

    Con: Just fire up the engine already—we've been out here for, like, two hours.

     

    Modern Pentathlon

    Men's event: $120 general admission

    Pro: Sounds sophisticated.

    Con: Admit it, you have no idea what this is.

     

    Triathlon

    Women's event: $32-$96

    Pro: Good things come in threes.

    Con: By name alone, the least ambitious of the summer-based "athlons." 

Transportation

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    To navigate this bustling metropolis, you'll likely use London's subway system.

    Natives call it "The Tube," and it's as ominous as it sounds.

    There are about a dozen distinct lines, and they all take you to a place called "Acton." However, it's never the "Acton" you were trying to get to, and why doesn't anyone here speak real English? And...

    ...

    Calm down. You can do this.

    First step is to buy something called an "Oyster Card." This plastic swipe-able links to your checking account and allows you to take limitless subway trips without thinking about how much money you're spending.

    It does not entitle you to oysters. Or pearls. Or even a Long John Silver's variety platter.

    The alternative is to buy a weekly pass that will run you between $50 and $70  depending on how far you're staying from the center of town.

Add It All Up

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    Bottom line, what's this 17-day stay in London going to run you?

    Travel: $1,200

    Lodging (hostel): $1,000

    Transportation: $100

    Tickets (say you go to seven events at an average of $200 per event): $1,400

    Food ($40 per diem, make it work): $680

    Grand Total: $3,480

     

    And if you want to stay in a decent hotel?

    Grand Total: $8,280

     

    And if you want some really sweet tickets to a couple of premier events?

    Grand Total: $9,000

     

    And if you want to take the whole family...

    Oh boy....

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